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Burnet Institute Non-Executive Director, Professor Peter Colman has been awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) as part of the Queen’s birthday honours list for 2017.
The award recognises Professor Colman’s eminent service to medical research, particularly in the fields of structural biology and medicinal chemistry, as a leader in the commercial translation of scientific discoveries, to professional organisations, and as a mentor of young scientists.
A research scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Colman has led the Structural Biology division since 2001, where he has focused on understanding the structure of the proteins that control cell survival and cell death.
This research underpinned the development of a new class of anti-cancer agents, called BH3-mimetics, which override the survival signals keeping cancer cells alive.
One such agent, venetoclax, is now in clinical use for treating certain forms of leukaemia.
Professor Colman said he was honoured to receive the award. “Structural biology lets us see molecules, understand how they work, and do something about it when human health is compromised,” he said.
Burnet Institute, Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC, said Professor Colman was recognised internationally for his significant contributions to medical research.
“Professor Peter Colman AC represents the absolute very best science has to offer, both as scientists themselves see it and as the wider community sees it too.” Professor Crabb said.
“Peter is a crisp, clear thinking, rigorous, creative and highly novel medical researcher on the one hand, and on the other someone who brings real solutions all the way to people who suffer serious health problems.
“On top of that he is a major research leader in many capacities, including giving generously to our own organisation as a highly active board member and philanthropist.
“A person of extraordinary talents who has delivered for all of us and is a giant on the international stage. Professor Colman is thoroughly deserving of Australia’s highest honour.”
Professor Colman has been a member of the Burnet Institute Board since 2011.
Professor Nicks Crofts was also acknowledged in the honours list with a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his significant service to medicine in the field of epidemiology, particularly through contributions to the control of HIV and other infectious diseases.
Professor Crofts, formerly a Deputy Director of Burnet Institute, established and headed the Institute’s Epidemiological Research Unit in 1989, the predecessor to Burnet’s Centre for Population Health – focusing on a surveillance program for HIV and other sexually transmissible infections (STIs) in Victoria.
He went on to establish and head the Institute’s Centre for Harm Reduction, which became part of the Centre for International Health, focusing more specifically on reducing harms associated with drug and alcohol use.
Professor Crabb AC said Professor Crofts' contributions to harm reduction were recognised internationally.
“Nick has advised many governments and organisations around the world on the use of harm reduction methods to reduce the impact of drug and alcohol use and the associated spread of infectious diseases within the community,“ Professor Crabb said.
“His research and advocacy has resulted in significant advances in alcohol and drug policy and public health strategies.”